Wealthy nations called to helpGlobal poverty hits harder than tsunami [Archives:2005/813/Front Page]

February 3 2005

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

A report sponsored by the United Nations released last Monday said it is possible that 500 million people living in poverty can improve their living conditions and lives of millions of mothers and children can be saved in the next 10 years if more aid is provided by the wealthiest nations.

Investing in Development, a 3,000 page report put together by 265 experts, said that up to now the goals set five years ago by the United Nations have not been reached. The millennium development goals for 2015, established at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, included reducing the one billion people living on $1 a day by half, improving education, reducing child and maternal mortality, reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and cutting by half the number of people living without clean water and basic sanitation.

“The system is not working right now, let's be clear,” said Jeffrey Sachs, the lead author of the report and head the Earth Institute at Columbia University. “The overwhelming reality on our planet is that impoverished people get sick and die for lack of access to basic practical means that could help keep them alive and do more than that – help them achieve livelihoods and escape from poverty.”

The report recommended that well-governed poor nations should be viewed as “fast-track” countries and be able to acquire an increase in aid for development in 2005 and initiate a poverty-reduction plan.

Yemen, along with Ethiopia, Mauritania, Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso, was mentioned in the report as a possible candidate to receive more aid.

Yemen has been listed as one of the world's 30 least developed countries. According to the United Nations, roughly a third of the Yemenis, and around two-thirds of those living in rural areas, do not have access to drinking water. Due to the lack of well-developed healthcare, over one in 10 children die before the age of five. More than 45% of the 19 million Yemenis live on less than $2 a day.

The report said that the financial support required to carry out the plan determined in 2000 is available among the world's wealthiest nations. It estimates that the economies of the wealthy countries are worth $30 trillion, as the United States takes up $12 trillion. In 1970, those nations agreed to donate 0.7% of their gross domestic product (GDP) to assist development in poverty-stricken areas. Up to now, only five countries have followed through on their commitments, while six other nations have promised to match the targets they set by 2015. Even though the United States has increased providing aid in recent years, it now only contributes around 0.15% of its GDP.

The report said, “The required doubling of annual official development assistance to $135 billion in 2006, rising to $195 billion by 2015, pales beside the wealth of high income countries – and the world's military budget of $900 billion a year.”

Some argue that although a boost in foreign aid is important, other measures need to be taken for the goals of 2015 to be reached.

“More aid will make a difference, but in some countries money does not solve all the problems,” said Naji Abu Hatim, Senior Rural Development Specialist at The World Bank based in Yemen. “There are countries that are in need of capacity building to be able to deliver by implementing projects and offering better services to the people.”

Other recommendations in the report include rich nations opening their markets to developing countries, starting a coordinated effort between developed and developing countries to save millions of lives through healthcare development, donor countries assisting scientific research to deal with health, agricultural, energy and climate, and poor countries putting together strategies to improve on good governance and human rights.

Sachs said that simple steps being implemented could make a big difference. “We have the world's eyes focused on the tsunami of the Indian Ocean, but the world continues to overlook the silent tsunami deaths from malaria which take every month the number of people that died in the Asian tragedy,” said Sachs.

“Every month, 150,000 children in Africa, if not more, are dying from the silent tsunami of malaria, a largely preventable and utterly treatable disease.”